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The relativity of our own truths (drawing by M.C. Escher)
The relativity of our own truths (drawing by M.C. Escher)

In a number of articles I have tried to focus on our personal responsibility to effect change. I believe that before any true and external revolution can take hold, the revolutionaries should invest time in working on their own inner revolution. This article tries to explore our tendency to hold on to our own version of what we think is the truth, despite almost everything.

I would like to encourage the readers of World Mathaba to use their own creativity in order to find ways to not only recognize this tendency, but also to find ways to determine whether you are actually correct or not. I provide a possible method that I have found quite useful in my own experience.

I was triggered to write this piece after a few interesting comments on the article 'Touching the Divine' (1). One of the elements of these comments was the question relating to how could one know what is true and what is not. Can we always trust our own version of the truth, or are there perhaps some other dynamics at play that might blur our view on certain ideas that we cherish? Could it be that not only the advertisement-business and the MSM are able to manipulate the way we think about certain matters (2), but we are able to sabotage ourselves as well?

Let me give some examples on how people are inclined to defend what they believe in. A while ago I wrote a piece on the suggestion that Julian Assange would be some kind of CIA-agent (3). In the comments below the article you can see a discussion unfolding between radios.cz and me. In my belief system (or my truth) I think of Julian Assange as a brave man standing up against the great powers in governments, the army, corporations, banks etc. Radios.cz, on the other hand holds the idea that Julian Assange is a kind of puppet for the CIA or the family of Rothschilds.

What the discussion shows is that we both find arguments to defend our own truths, and that the further the discussion goes, the more we dig into our own realities.

Take a look at an Al-Nusra Salafist fighter in Syria. When you ask him about his truth, he is likely to defend his acts of killing infidels or other people that think differently than he does. He might say that he is fighting for Allah and that to be killed as a martyr is something to be aspired. If you would start a conversation with such a man on the disparity between respecting the ten commandments ("Thou shallst not kill") and his killings, he is likely to find an excuse to defend his right to kill off other people.

A final example could be the way someone sees someone else. If one has developed a certain view on a particular person, it can often be very difficult to change that initial interpretation of the character of that person. Due to your own biases and your own projections, you may easily hold on to a certain perspective, despite what others, or even that particular person itself says. You keep on picking out those specific arguments or elements that confirm your hypothesis or view on someone else, even when it has lost nearly all connections to any shared reality.

CONFIRMATION BIAS

Within Psychology there are a number of phenomena that describe the tendency of people to defend their own truths. The effect in the Assange-discussion which I described above is described as 'attitude polarization':

"Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way.

The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about current political issues, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.

Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations)." (source: 4)

AM I RIGHT, AM I WRONG?

Wouldn't it be great if we were able to discover whether a certain belief that we hold is actually in line withourselves, or that we are fooling ourselves by holding on to a certain perspective on life, on a particular theme or person? It would sure be wonderful if we would be able to find a way that would help us to determine how right we really are.

Some people have developed a strong contact with their intuition, which can guide their way through their lives. Many of us are not so lucky and they are caught up with a mind that is often renowned for its ability to twist reality. In the above examples it is the mind that keeps on defending its own truth for all kinds of reasons. It might be to prevent any pain or anger from surfacing. It might also be out of sheer stubbornness: to give in would be to admit a failure, a loss. As if changing ones mind would be a sign of weakness.

What I have come to find very useful to bypass the tricky mind, is to try and tune into the body's wisdom. A simple way to do that is by sitting somewhere in a comfortable way, and then introduce the topic by letting it enter your body, like a cloud that surrounds it. You could also imagine your heart, listening to that particular theme. With an open 'mind/heart' try to listen to the sensations, feelings that pop up and only notice what happens, without letting your mind take over.

Just listen to it in a peaceful way. You might also try to see what happens when you play with the opposite pole of your theme: what does that stir in your body? What emotions or memories are associated with that?

When it comes to your views regarding certain persons, a simple but very effective method was suggested in another comment on the 'Touching the Divine'-article (1), namely to ask yourself what that person would really be like: what would make them happy or sad? Stop seeing that other person as some kind of object, but learn to see them as a real human being. This could be a great way to get out of your own self-engineered box, filled with your own projections of someone else.

Of course it also very useful to actually ask people themselves, and then make sure that you are not too blinded to also really take in what the other is telling you, even if that doesn't fit with your own views.

To conclude I would like to stress that I consider it a sign of a strong character to be able to change your mind on a certain matter. It is definitely not a sign of weakness to be able to alter your opinion. When your heart/body resonates with a certain perspective, however, no matter how strange it may appear to others, it of course is a good thing to keep on holding on to what you believe in. The difference is that it is not your (tricky) mind, but a deeper layer within you that determines what you believe is right and what is wrong.

Please tell us your thoughts and feelings in regard to all this. Perhaps you can share a story on your own stubbornness and how you were able to change your views, or what was needed to make that change. These inner revolutions might be far more important than any external revolution. 

NOTES

(1) https://worldmathaba.net/items/2113-touching-the-divine 
(2) https://worldmathaba.net/items/mind-control-theories-and-techniques-used-by-mass-media
(3) https://worldmathaba.net/items/2070-questioning-a-2010-rumour-about-julian-assange-being-some-rothschild-puppet
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias